top of page

Automated Security Testing: How Far Left Should Security Testing Start?

Automated Security Testing (AST) is one of the recent forms of enforcing security at software-based organizations. There are claims that AST can reduce the workload of security engineers, be ridiculously cheaper, and be much faster than manual security testing. To find which is true, let’s take a deep dive into AST.

Why the Buzz About AST

In the early days, Cybersecurity was ensured by many manual processes. Once developers were done creating code, security tools would be used to scan for bugs so they could be fixed. Over the years, these tools were updated to account for more security holes as both security and ways of breaching it expanded.

Some of them are Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST), Static Application Security Testing (SAST), and Software Composition Analysis (SCA). On average, the tests can take 1-3 weeks depending on the software as every test is run manually. When automated, these tests can run even at night, saving hours and days.

With AST, you can create a sample of your code in a secure environment and run tests that expose present bugs, allowing you to fix them without ruining your business’ reputation. You can also continuously test your software, parallel to development and releases.

What is Automated Security Testing (AST)?

The acronym stands for Automated Security Testing. AST is security testing that has been automated and if you want, tailored, to check for the security vulnerabilities of your software, and alert you when present. Then, you can fix them.

AST is the most recent form of securing testing and it automates other types of manual security testing:

  • Static Application Security Testing (SAST)

  • Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST)

  • Software Composition Analysis (SCA)

Static Application Security Testing (SAST)

SAST checks the code quality of the text files/source code. It screens the patterns and types of semantics that indicate vulnerability. SAST can be operated pre or post-build in software.

To use SAST, an acceptable error rate is set. Once the errors surpass the metric set, there is a need for more screening and fixing to eliminate the bugs. Depending on the setup, however, SAST can be really noisy - producing numerous results that can not be realistically checked fast enough, or results that are not crucial to the security of the system.

This is why professional input is needed in order to set it right from the beginning and prevent fallouts later on.

Static application security testing can be automated to notify when there are severe issues and issues bordering on important but not urgent, enabling prioritization when fixing code.

Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST)

DAST operates by exploiting the code from the outside in (like a hacker). It’s the analysis of a running system and is mostly used for Web Application Security Testing. That said, for the best results, code has to be built (not necessarily released before DAST can be performed.

DAST stimulates attacks to note potential vulnerabilities. But, it can be very complex to set up.

Because much code will be open source, DAST is especially important to test all the runnable code, not just the code that's been generated. DAST results produce a list of found vulnerabilities plus many tools indicate how to fix them.

DAST is automated to check apps for known threats that specific code might be exposed to. API fuzzing is automated DAST that injects wrong or unexpected inputs into a system to uncover software defects and vulnerabilities.

Software Composition Analysis (SCA)

Evaluating memory problems, code quality, unidentified behavior, license compliance, and more can be performed through SCA. SCA is also an automated process for identifying open-source code in a database.

This allows you to test even earlier, shifting left in your cybersecurity measures It performs deep analyses which expose the potential vulnerabilities present in the code, especially included code. As manual analysis of source code is not sufficient in the least, SCA was created to aid developers in the drive to be more cyber secure.

One way to automate software composition analysis is GitHub code scanning and GitLab code scanning.

The Importance of Automated Security Testing

1. Spend less resources on the workforce

Manual tests always require an experienced professional to be run. Depending on how big your organization is, this could range from changing the role of one of your developers- leaving a smaller number to work on the code, or hiring another professional who adds to the payroll.

2. Save time

Because manual tests need professionals present, it is often limited to their working hours. With automated security testing, code can be evaluated at any time, even at night, saving you crucial time for running repeated tests

3. Get relevant, concise results

If you set up your automated security tests with a professional, it is tailored so metrics important to your company are collected and bogus results are not created. This greatly reduces the possibility of false positives and negatives.

4. Save costs

Over time, manual repeated security tests will run up in costs. But once automated security tests are integrated into your workflow, it's a repeated process that saves up money that can be diverted into other company needs.

AST and Shifting Left in the Software Development Lifecycle

Before security testing could be automated, it was normal for all the hard work to be done before the software was scanned for vulnerabilities. When found, these vulnerabilities could be worked on and a working code could be produced.

Not anymore.

Now, security testing can start way before the code is completed. By integrating security measures into every stage, even the first draft of the code should have a good level of security.

Secure software can be mainstream in your organization if you start implementing automated security testing

Need strong security for your SaaS business?

We are here for you. Schedule a risk assessment now.

bottom of page